Another question came to me from the contact form on here:
Thank you for your writings. I have enjoyed your books but I am troubled by them as well. Non-duality seems to be a repudiation of free will. I am not doing anything. The divine acts through me. But what of the man who murders a child, or genocidal wars? It seems the world would often be better if people acted differently. Can you help me understand this?
And here is what I wrote in response:
Thank you for your question. It is one of the most common concerns raised about the teachings of non-duality.
While there is just one reality or one Being here, the manifestations and movements of that one Being are as diverse as can be. Oneness seems to love to appear and dance as many. And there are also many levels of truth that operate within this amazing dance of life.
So your question about murder and war can be answered at different levels, and all of the answers would have some relevance. At the most relative level, there is the definite appearance of free will. It is important what we do, and if people made better choices, this would be wonderful for the world.
If we shift to a more absolute perspective, we can see that all action is purely an illusion created by our consciousness. No action has ever harmed consciousness, and so the appearances of murder and war are just that: an appearance.
But to be complete, we also can experience how both of these perspectives are true, and also experience a perspective that is in between these two extremes. It turns out that when someone directly experiences their true nature as empty spacious presence, this does not necessarily lead to a disinterest in the appearances and illusions of this world. In fact, the recognition that there is no one here and no individual doing anything most often leads to the experience and expression of a deep love for this world and all of the illusions in it. If it is just an illusion, then why bother with murder or war? If you and your actions are just an illusion, then the pain and fears of the illusory ego simply do not matter anymore. If we see through the illusions of our personal story, then there are no longer any motivations that would lead to murder or war.
In the absence of a personal self, we are not left with nothing. There are many deeper qualities of true nature that are revealed as the ego loosens it's grip on us. And it is perhaps a surprise to find out that they are all positive qualities like love, joy, peace, clarity, strength, and wisdom. I say it is perhaps a surprise because of the psychological view that our unconscious is filled with all kinds of repressed negative emotions that must be contained. And while there is also some truth to this perspective, the missing piece in much of psychology is that underneath even our darkest unconscious emotions are these essential qualities of our Being. It turns out that at the core, we are loving, joyful and divine. This is not something that you can grasp intellectually, but it is something that you can experience as your sense of self is weakened or dissolved by direct inquiry.
It is possible to have a purely intellectual grasp of the concept that there is no individual doer, and that the world is just an illusion. And like any belief or concept, it can just be believed and identified with and lead to all kinds of distortions and justifications for terrible actions. For examples, just examine the history of religious fundamentalism where teachings about peace and love have been used to justify hatred, murder and war. Even a belief in there being no doer can lead to this kind of fundamentalism if it is just a belief. But in the actual experience of the dissolving of an egoic sense of self, there is an opening to the deeper realities of our essential Being, and beyond that to the mystery at the core of Being which can not be described or defined.
The positive qualities at the core of our Being are strangely found to be nondual also. At that depth of experience, it is seen that there is only goodness and that there is no opposite thing called badness. This is the important discovery that counterbalances any tendency of the ego to form a belief about nonduality that denies the importance or value of the world and its beautiful illusions. It is this essential core of goodness that loves the world and everything in it, and so makes it extremely unlikely that someone resting in their deepest essence would ever act to harm another. In fact there is a natural arising of a compassion and appreciation for all of life.
The concept of nonduality is just that: a concept. As such it can be distorted and co-opted by the ego and the mind to justify anything. But the reality of our nondual nature is not a concept, and the direct experience of it is filled with peace, love and joy beyond anything we could have imagined. But do not take my word for any of this. See what you find when you inquire deeply into this question of who it is that acts in this world. Do you find a complete lack of any love and concern for the world when you experience a more open and complete sense of your true nature, or do you find that there is no limit to the love and compassion that can be found within the empty spaces of your soul?
I hope this helps.